It is a bit chilly outside this Memorial Day. Well, the breeze is chilly anyway. The garden plants are swaying in the wind and I am enjoying the type of peace and quiet only a garden can provide. Directly in front of me are two large pots that could quite possibly accommodate small trees or shrubs if I were so inclined. Actually, now that I think back, at one point, I believe I did have some small conifers in each of these but they did not survive. For the last two years I have dedicated these pots to growing a very special flower – the Flanders Poppy. As you all know, I am a very sentimental gardener and this particular flower provides more sentiment than most other flowers I grow.
Today, as in most Memorial Days that have passed, I like to sit quietly and reflect. My garden, my solace, my one place I can commune quietly with my thoughts is in perfect form today. How fortunate I am! I have a home, food in the kitchen and a decent size garden to just sit and relax.
I watched a documentary last night on PBS that focused on those that lost their lives in World War I and II. Men and women as young as 18 or 19 died by the scores to save the world from tyranny. I am forty-seven and I have never been drafted nor have I been anywhere near a war. No, in my late teens and twenties I was out gallivanting around enjoying my freedom to do pretty much whatever I pleased. I never had to advance on a beach head attempting to dodge constant gunfire, secure a post deep in enemy territory knowing that any minute an explosive could go off and end it all or worry if a sniper was hiding somewhere ready to end my life. I never had bombs going off all around me as I watched my friends lose limbs or being blown to pieces. No, I have been blessed by not ever having to experience any of these things.
In one part of the documentary, it showed bombs hitting the ground and as they exploded it was as if a geyser of earth had erupted. The narrator then mentioned that men were buried alive under all the many tons of dirt and debris. Imagine that! You are marching forward and bombs fall and there is so much dirt and debris falling over you that you are buried alive. What an absolutely horrific way to die! Maybe if the fates were kind something would hit you on the head to either knock you out or kill you instantly as opposed to breathing in dirt and slowly suffocating.
Thinking about all this now actually has brought tears to my eyes. I think of all the black and white photos of men and women smiling in their uniform or pre-military photos of home life. Men and women who died. These people were someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter and because of their bravery and selfless dedication, they gave their lives so that I can sit here in this garden enjoying a type of freedom most still only dream about. It is because of this I view this day not as a chance to have a three day weekend or perhaps take advantage of some sale, I consider it a duty of sorts to sit peacefully in quiet reflection and thank those from my heart who gave so much.
When the bombings were over and the earth was a disfigured war-torn mess, one beautiful thing did happen. Where once there were bodies,carnage and earth stained with blood, a flower grew. Poppies love to grow in disturbed earth as they need light to germinate. With all the seeds brought to the surface, the red of the blood spilled was replaced with the red of a most beautiful and humble flower. It is interesting to note that in many major wars throughout history, poppies would grow from the disturbed earth. With their soft, papery petals swaying in the wind, Lieutenant John McCrae was inspired to write a beautiful poem dedicated to the flower and honoring the men who perished.
Here is John McCrae’s poem as it appeared in the December 8th 2015 issue of Punch Magazine:
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
IN Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Every year I spread Flanders Poppy seeds in more and more places in the garden as it is my way of honoring and remembering. I absolutely love all poppies but there truly is something special about the small corn poppy now known as the Flanders Poppy. Beyond the confines of my own garden, it is my hope to inspire others to grow this flower in their own garden. If you live in a cooler climate, you can spread them in February or late autumn. If you live in a warmer climate, you can spread them in September. Not much is needed really. Just ensure the earth is a bit loose, grab a handful of seeds and broadcast them. That’s it. They will come up faithfully after the cool weather ends. When they have finished flowering, the dried seed heads can be pinched off and when you are ready to plant again just squeeze the dried seed pods to break open the hundreds of tiny seeds inside. To get you started, I definitely recommend buying your seeds from Botanical Interests. If you would like some of my seeds, please leave a message in the comments section and I will contact you asking for your address and will be happy to send you some.
As always, thank you very kindly for reading. I pray your day has been blessed.
Here are photos of the poppies that have graced my garden throughout the years: